Landreth's is one of the few seed catalogs out there you have to pay to receive ($5) but it's more like a historical document than a list of seeds. The company has been in business since 1784 in various Mid-Atlantic locations, and they've been publishing catalogs since 1847. Many of the covers, engravings, and bits of wisdom from those catalogs are reproduced in this 78-page volume. It's gorgeous, and fun to browse through.
Landreth's has a good, not enormous, selection of seeds: enough choice to find something satisfactory, not enough to feel daunting. Most are open-pollinated, with a few exceptions such as corn. The seeds are presented in simple lists (in, I must say, rather small print). Photographs of many varieties are sandwiched into the middle of the catalog, or you can find them on the website.
special collections of seeds have been put together that could be used for a themed garden, including an African-American heritage collection created by Michael Twitty.
This is a catalog I'll save when the 2012 gardening year is over, and perhaps I'll cut out a few of those full-color cover reproductions and frame them. What a great connection to history.
Prices are low to average, mostly between $2 and $4 a packet but bunching up on the lower side. Brandywine tomato seed is priced at $2.50; but of course you don't just get tomato seeds, you also get (from the 1848 Landreth Catalogue):
"This plant is a native of South America, and perhaps of the West Indies; thence introduced into this country. But a few years since, it was scarcely known as an esculent--now it is in very general use. There are six or seven varieties, between which there is not much real difference; the common red is equal to any. Cultivation same as directed for the Eggplant. It is, however, more free in growth, and will produce fruit tolerable early, when sown on the open border. On the approach of frost, pull up some of the plants (root and all) which are well laden with fruit, and hang them up in a dry, airy apartment. In this manner, it may be continued in perfection for some time longer than the natural season."
Notes: (1) You can order a print catalog through most of the catalog
websites (or in some cases, download a PDF version). (2) Mention of specific products, brands, or companies is not
intended as an endorsement by the University of Maryland. (3) I do not
receive consideration of any kind for mentioning products, brands, or
companies in my postings. The seed catalogs I review are those of
sellers from which I have previously bought seeds.